Systematic review and meta-analysis of the perioperative use of vasoactive drugs on postoperative outcomes after major abdominal surgery

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Background: The perioperative use of vasoactive drugs is ubiquitous in clinical anaesthesia; yet, the drugs, doses, and haemodynamic targets used are highly variable. Our objectives were to determine whether the perioperative administration of vasoactive drugs reduces mortality, morbidity, and length of stay in adult patients (aged 16 yr or older) undergoing major abdominal surgery. Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched for peer-reviewed RCTs with no language or date restrictions. Studies that assessed the intraoperative use of vasoactive drugs were included. Title, abstract, and full-text screening was performed. Risk of bias for each outcome measure was conducted. We calculated the risk ratio (RR) using the Mantel–Haenszel random-effects model with corresponding 95% confidence interval (CI) for dichotomous outcomes, and mean difference using the inverse variance random-effects model with corresponding 95% CI for continuous outcomes. Results: Twenty-six studies (5561 participants) were included. There was no difference in mortality at the longest follow-up with an RR of 0.84 (95% CI: 0.63–1.12; P=0.23). The intervention significantly reduced the number of patients with one or more postoperative complications; RR: 0.76 (95% CI: 0.66–0.88; P=0.0002). Hospital length of stay was reduced by 0.91 days in the intervention group. Conclusions: This review is limited by the quality and sample size of individual studies, and the heterogeneity of the settings, interventions, and outcome measures. Perioperative administration of vasoactive drugs may reduce postoperative complications and hospital length of stay in adult patients having major abdominal surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-524
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • cardiovascular agents
  • goal-directed therapy
  • haemodynamics
  • major abdominal surgery
  • perioperative care
  • vasoconstrictor agents

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